One of the best aspects of our trip has been the opportunity to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in many years. The week before we arrived in China I discovered that one of my friends from high school, Andrew, now lives in Beijing. We traded a bunch of email and he invited Kruti and me to crash with him and we did. Andrew and I had only seen each other once since high school at our ten-year reunion more than five years ago and had pretty much lost touch outside of the occasional Facebook stalking, so we were getting to know each other all over again. What an awesome guy. Dynamic, extremely generous, spirited, thought-provoking, and very warm. He’s a scholar of East Asian Studies, fluent in Mandarin, and working in investment management in Beijing. And he’s the consummate host. The three of us stayed up late catching up and telling stories every night and poor Andrew had to go to work in the morning while Kruti and I slept in; when we woke up maps were laid out, itineraries drawn up, and snacks left on the table to get us through the cold winter days walking around Beijing. Kruti and I are big fans of Andrew and I’m really happy this trip got us back in touch.
Another good friend from high school, Bob, the one who put me back in touch with Andrew, was in town from NYC for a conference that week and it was great to see his familiar mug on the other side of the world as well. We all went out to dinner a couple evenings and even caught a Chinese acrobatics performance. It was a fantastic reunion.
Other than catching up with friends, we attempted to see Beijing’s sights but the cold weather made it difficult to enjoy. We spent the first day exploring the imperial grandeur of the Forbidden City (so called because it was off limits for 500 years, home to two dynasties of emperors) and Tiananmen Square (the world’s largest public square) until our toes almost froze off. The second day we wandered around the 798 Art District (disused, sprawling electronics factory workshops converted into galleries) admiring the latest in Chinese art. And the third day we journeyed into the hutong, the city’s warren of ancient, narrow alleyways and one-storey dwellings that were part of the original heart and fabric of Beijing. Check out the photos.